Thursday, 4 November 2010

Art & Photography 1

This is the first of what I hope will be many blogs dealing with Art & Photography both as separate topics and in tandem to give my opinion on when different mediums work together and when they don't. The idea is to inspire and challenge both artists and photographers and hopefully culminate in an exhibition where works of art and photographs (although these are art too!) are displayed side by side and not in a separate room as so often is the case. Firstly:-

Some limitations of photography

Mirrors: As an artist, I can paint what I see in a mirror or use a mirror in a work of art. Equally I can use metallic or shiny materials that have very reflective properties. As I see it, this is impossible in photography unless the images are printed directly on to such reflective surfaces, and the reflected image of the photographic equipment used is somehow edited out of the photograph. If viewed on a computer monitor then you can never achieve any of these effects! Photographers have to be very aware of this and look out for reflective materials in there shots (Have you ever seen those photos put on ebay where a naked photographer can be seen in a mirror behind the object for sale?!) especially when using a flash(!).

Here's a photo of one of my paintings 'Everything is made of Stardust' which uses metallic paint to draw in surrounding light and thus is constantly changing. You will appreciate now that there is no way a photographer can capture this property.

If you're very accomplished you can make stunning photos of reflective objects like this one by Shez Hanley.

Size: For most people the cost of producing very large photographs is prohibitive. Therefore photographs are often limited to A1 size but A4 being the norm. This greatly reduces the impact a photo can have and you probably don't need any more than 3 Megapixals for such small prints.  So a photographer whose aim is to produce prints should always think about the end size at the outset of any photo shoot. Having too many things in a photo is not going to work. However if your an artist and want to study fine detail then more megapixals are better, you can then zoom in and out of an image on your PC. I find this very useful for doing pet portraits for example. Note that if most of your photos are viewed on a computer then the full image is going to be limited to the size of your monitor's screen. Therefore applications such a flikr can be a dead loss to showcase anything that's intended to be viewed on a lager scale - and don't even bother viewing anything on a mobile phone! The above painting ('..stardust') is 2ft x 2ft in real life - how many people have a computer screen that big?!

PC Monitors: Apart from size, your computers screen is very different to a print or painting, being essentially a lot of tiny bright lights, rather than reflected light. This has several effects on the end result. The most obvious is that of editing, and especially editing brightness and contrast. How many times have you printed out a photo and found it looks darker than you expected? Also one monitor could be set up differently to another and even the viewing angle can make a photo look darker/lighter. The other week I sent some 'demo' self-portraits photos to a photographer friend of my partner and she said they were all over exposed (and I don't think that she meant just the naked ones!). Now was it that her monitor is brighter than mine or that my editing tastes are different to hers or did I edit them with my laptop monitor at an unusually acute/obtuse angle to normal? - Or were they over exposed?! I didn't think they were.

Photoshop: Editing software is all well and good, but just about everybody nowadays knows when a photograph has been 'doctored' and just knowing that makes the image worthless, in my view, as you've failed in the illusion. I think people want 'natural' shots or offbeat creative special effects. Take these two fantastic examples:
The first one 'Lobster' by the highly talented Shez Hanley couldn't look more natural and, apart from the obvious crop, I don't think has had any major editing, if any at all. It has impact, vibrant colour and an added curiosity value in its subject - its weirdly simple and complex at the same time! A lot of Shez's work, like this, has the power to draw people in, and leave a lasting impression. The second by a friend of mine, Jennie Cole, who has had photos printed in 'The Guardian', is so obviously (wo)man-made she has turned an 'ordinary' photo into a work of art with a good choice of artificial colours used to great effect. It kind of reminds me of those images put at the beginning of the BBC's coverage of the 'Chelsea Flower Show' for the past few years, nice. But even these need to be viewed on a larger scale to be appreciated in all their glory.

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